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Department of Fine Arts
Assessment activity 1998-99 and earlier

Knowledge and skill goals for this undergraduate degree program are recorded in the most recent CU-Boulder catalog.

In some summaries of assessment activity, goals are referred to by number (e.g., K-2 is knowledge goal 2).

Activity in 1998-1999

  • Art History
  • Studio Arts
  • Program Changes
  • Activity prior to 1998

  • Studio Arts
  • Art History
  • Exit Surveys
  • Program Changes
  • Activity in 1998-99


    Assessment Procedure for Art History:

    Under review. There was no reliable mechanism in place for the AY 1998-1999 to obtain information about our art history students’ educational experiences. Evaluations were not completed because past outcomes assessment procedures in art history, those that paralleled procedures in studio arts, were unsuccessful. Although in the past, outside experts in art history had been invited to read papers submitted by graduating seniors, this procedure proved to be too difficult to implement and a dismal failure.

    Exit Surveys for Art History:

    Because exit surveys for graduating BFA candidates in studio arts have served as a useful evaluation tool in the past, additional forms will be designed for the BA degree in art history. Beginning with the AY 1999-2000, all students graduating with a BA degree in art history will be asked to complete an exit survey form as part of their Fine Arts senior packet and outcomes assessment procedure.

    Summary Evaluation for AY 1997- 98 and 1998 - 1999, Art History

    None available.



    Assessment Procedure for Studio Arts:

    Studio art evaluators are invited to examine the artwork of graduating seniors who are BFA candidates. Evaluators view students’ artwork through the BFA Seminar Exhibition and review accompanying written statements. These evaluators are professional in the field of art (art critics, artists, art directors, gallery owners, and collegiate art faculty not currently affiliated with the Department of Fine Arts, Boulder campus). Artwork of BFA students enrolled in a capstone course is evaluated once every two years at the end of the spring semester. Students also compete exit survey forms concerning their educational experience. Evaluators first write comments about the overall quality of the BFA Exhibition. They then select twelve student portfolios at random that are jointly reviewed in depth. Using a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (best), 3 being good, they do an evaluation of each portfolio, scoring and commenting on various knowledge and skill categories, based on art studio knowledge and skill goals. A summary report is written by the expert evaluators to guide ongoing development of the studio arts BFA program, curriculum, and assessment process.

    Exit Surveys for Studio Arts:

    In addition to the rigorous external evaluation by outside evaluators of studio work in the BFA Exhibition, exit survey forms are solicited from students. These detailed questionnaires give students the opportunity to voice opinions and concerns about their educational experiences. Because these exit surveys for graduating BFA candidates have served as a useful evaluation tool, additional forms will be designed for the BA degree in studio arts. Beginning with the AY 1999-2000, all students graduating with a degree in studio arts will be asked to complete an exit survey form as part of their Fine Arts senior packet and outcomes assessment procedure.

    Summary Evaluation for AY 1997- 98 and 1998-1999, Studio Arts

    Outside Evaluators:
    No review was held in Spring of 1999. Gary Huibregtse and Lydia Brokaw-Nelson were the outside evaluators chosen to review the BFA Exhibition in the spring of 1998. According to them, two themes emerged: scale and diversity. They defined scale as large in size and scope. According to them, diversity meant employment of various media to provide an adequate platform for individual expression. The evaluators wrote that they saw a wide range of artistic avenues and a wide range of ideas leading to successful creative expressions. Students successfully handled different materials almost always used exploration to enhance content. They concluded that the BFA students in our program have access to an array of materials and that our faculty offers numerous strategies for proper use.

    The evaluators also noted that most students exhibited work with ambitious technical aspects. They concluded that our Department offers proficient instruction in media along with direction of creative investigation. In general the quality of the work exhibited was strong showing evidence that high standards applied to the display of this semester’s work. Comments were made about the engaging quality of the more interactive pieces and how they were conceptually intriguing. They saw a commitment to art and felt that our students were taught various contemporary trends and ideas while being encouraged to find a unique visual identity. One goal of our department was clear, to help students form the basis for their future creative work.

    The evaluators also mentioned two weaknesses. The first was the hanging of two paintings at the entrance that seemed out of place because they did not give a reliable hint to the quality of the artwork that would be experienced during the remainder of the show. The second weakness included some negative comments about a few of the electronic media pieces. They noted some technical flaws, fabrication problems, poor execution of presentation details, and reliance on elaborate concept at the expense of craftsmanship. They wrote that there was only a superficial level of content exploration in some of this work and too much reliance on electronic tools, meaning “gimmicks.” However, they mentioned that they did not see this as a criticism of our Department, but rather growing pains of these new media.

    Both evaluators mentioned that the organization of the exhibit itself was outstanding. Exhibition space was well-used and efficiently handled despite the great differences in artwork exhibited and the fact that over thirty-five students were included in this exhibition. Finally, they stated that the display was well coordinated and highly professional in execution.

    Student Responses:
    Students in the Fine Arts BFA Seminar exhibition identified a number of problems of concern. Poor advising was at the top of their list followed by the lack of a technically based program. Students commented that advising was unclear, inconsistent, and incorrectly given. One student complained that bad advice caused him to have to take additional courses. Others complained they were often confused. Many of them wanted more individual attention and time.

    Students repeatedly commented on the lack of technical knowledge, especially in the basic classes and that they would like to see an emphasis on fundamentals and structure. They enjoyed their professors at the advanced levels but complained about the inexperienced graduate assistant teachers at the beginning levels.

    Students also complained about the poor facilities and lack of janitorial staff. Many of the rooms are filthy with poor ventilation. In addition, they experienced continued difficulties getting into fine arts classes and felt cheated when beginners were inappropriately allowed into advanced classes. Finally, they felt that the curriculum was poor in preparing them for a career in art and that parts of it were outdated.

    On the positive side, students raved about the overall quality of teachers at the advanced levels. Their education was excellent at the junior and senior levels with many dedicated professors. They felt more connections to their upper-division teachers and were pleased at establishing a community of artists with other advanced students. They wrote that they enjoyed the freedom they had to explore within the curriculum, noting the flexibility and freedom to take what they enjoyed. Students were also impressed with the Visiting Artist Program, the opportunities for student grants through UROP, Independent Study, field trips and study abroad programs directed by Fine Arts professors. In addition, in the spring of 1998 all 27 students receiving a BFA in Studio Arts and participating in that semester’s BFA Exhibition were surveyed and asked to rate themselves on 10 dimensions, some of which are included in the Department’s knowledge and skill goals for students.

    Following is a list of the 10 dimensions rated, along with the mean ratings, on a scale of 5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=average, and 1=poor.


    1. Familiarity with a wide variety of subject matter, concepts, ideas in art

    2. Experience with a wide variety of media and materials used by artists 3.70
    3. Exposure to a wide variety of stylistic approaches used by artists 3.48
    4. Ability to demonstrate technical proficiency in chosen medium 3.92
    5. Development of a personal style 4.03
    6. Ability to create artwork with originality and invention 3.92
    7. Ability to express ideas clearly 3.51
    8. Awareness of critical issues related to studio art practice 3.62
    9. Understanding of art history and contemporary art 2.81
    10. Understanding of how to exhibit artwork 3.29

    In looking over the scores, it is important to note that students ranked “development of a personal style” as the highest achievement. This is, of course, the major goal for any student of studio arts and one our faculty stresses. High scores for “ability to demonstrate technical proficiency in chosen medium” and “ability to create artwork with originality and invention” were also indicated. These are also major goals since these important skills will enable our BFA students to create competitive portfolios for admission to graduate school.


    Program Changes for the Department

    The Fine Arts Department hired a chairperson from outside the university, Professor Deborah Haynes. Under her adroit leadership and understanding of team building and shared governance, our Department has improved dramatically in the past year. Along with her hiring came new faculty, new staff and a vision for the future. Morale has improved and many changes towards building a productive environment for faculty, staff, and students have already taken place. Specifically, we have hired two advisors who will maintain regular office hours and be available for the numerous advising responsibilities. Part of the difficulty in fine arts is its varied degree offerings, from art history to studio arts -- each with numerous disciplines. This makes advising in Fine Arts a complex issue. One of the advisors will work with art history and the other with studio arts. The standardization of this process has already yielded positive results.

    In Fall of 1999 we added a foundations course as an introduction to artmaking. It focused on technical as well as conceptual development. This beginning course, although offered as a trial run this semester, will eventually be required of all students who wish to be fine arts majors. This is an important addition as it is team taught by upper-division faculty and will give much needed knowledge, skill, and information to beginning students. The fine arts department relies heavily on its graduate assistant teachers to bear the load of its basic classes. Some smaller disciplines split the work load between faculty, i.e., faculty teaching one lower-division and one upper-division course, so not all basic level courses are taught by inexperienced teachers. In larger areas, where this is impossible, our department continues to work closely with the Graduate Teacher Program and lead teachers are appointed. They initiate meetings, discuss ideas about teaching, and generate solutions to problems faced by our graduate teaching assistants. Finally, there have been some improvement of the facilities, like the addition of an elevator by the gallery entrance. We are also planning a new building, and there is a major overhaul of the Art History curriculum in progress.


    Activity prior to 1998

    Studio Art

    Studio art evaluators are professionals in the field of art (art critics, artists, art directors, gallery owners, college art faculty, not currently affiliated with the Department of Fine Arts, Boulder campus). Art work of BFA students enrolled in a capstone course is evaluated twice a year. Students also complete survey forms concerning their educational experiences. Evaluators view students' art on exhibition along with accompanying written statements. Evaluators first write comments about the overall quality of the BFA exhibition. They then select twelve student portfolios (works exhibited) that are jointly reviewed in depth. Using a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (best), with 3 = good, they do an evaluation of each portfolio, with scoring and comments made within a series of five knowledge and skill categories based on art studio knowledge and skill goals. Finally, the evaluators write a summary report which guides ongoing development of the art studio program, curriculum and assessment process.

    Averaged ratings for the five assessment categories in 1996-97 range from 3.45 (good) to 4.08. (very good). This year the highest averaged score (4.08) was for the category of technical proficiency. Averaged scores for four other categories used to evaluate students work were in the good range (3.45 - 3.79). These categories are (a) awareness of contemporary art, (b) ideas clearly expressed (based on written statements accompanying work), (c) originality, and (d) personal style.

    Scores remain in the good to very good range and have risen somewhat in recent years. Averaged scores for the 1996-1997 academic year differ somewhat from those for the previous year (1995-1996). For example, the average score for "awareness of contemporary art" this year rose from good to very good. Three other categories for which student art was specifically assessed saw a modest fall in scores this year, while another remained about the same when compared to the previous year. Evaluators' anecdotal comments indicate that strengths of the studio area include quality, variety, experimentation, and self-expression. For example, (1992-93), "the show is one of good variety and approaches and a dramatic is clear that students have been encouraged to search for a personal view and try to express it..." and (1994-95) "the work shows that there is a strong and diverse faculty who are very committed to teaching." Recommendations include "more experimental ideas, less academia, more 'making it new' in terms of individuality" and giving students the opportunity for more exhibitions and encouraging real experience in other disciplines that could enhance their work like theater, set design, literature, writing, and language. In 1995-96 a recommendation was made that the work presented should be accompanied by documentation of creative process. 1996-97 evaluators referred positively to what they saw as an "awareness of current art issues" expressed in the work exhibited in the BFA exhibition. For several years evaluators have commented that while the students' visual work is good, they are less skilled at writing about their own art and processes.


    Art History

    Art history evaluators are professionals in the field of art criticism and art history (art critics, museum curators, art appraisers, art historians, not currently affiliated with the Department of Fine Arts, Boulder campus). Art history papers are evaluated once a year by two outside professionals knowledgeable in art history. Finding the most effective way to assemble research papers of art history majors remains an ongoing commitment of the Department of Fine Arts. Assessment of the knowledge and skill goals for the art history program began in 1992-93. Senior level art history papers are collected from students enrolled in upper-division art history classes. Pooled papers are presented to outside evaluators. Using the same 5-point scale described above, they do an evaluation of each paper, scoring and commenting within a series of five knowledge and skill categories based on art history knowledge and skill goals. They also comment on the overall quality of each paper and write a summary report on the overall quality of the pooled papers with recommendations to guide ongoing development of the art history program, curriculum and assessment process.

    In 1996-97 the averaged ratings for three of five categories were in the good (3) range. These scores suggest that papers showed proficiency in the students' (a) chosen art history methodology, (b) ability to express ideas clearly, and (c) originality of topic. This is consistent with averaged scores for the year 1995-1996 in these same categories. The average score for the category, "general awareness of art history or topic under discussion" was down this year from last year. It is noted that 1996-1997 evaluators commented on the vagueness of this concept, which may affect the scores in this assessment category. Compared to 1995-1996, 1996-1997 average scores in the category, "ability to interpret historical or critical information" remained the same, in the fair range (2.83 - 2.57)

    Evaluators comment that writing skills are a problem. A 1995-96 statement expressed it as "limited writing skills hindered the expression of ideas," while the 1996-97 evaluators wrote, "in several cases poor writing skills detracted from basically sound ideas." One 1995-96 evaluator remarked that while writing skills were lacking, the papers read "are among the best undergraduate papers one would find at CU and other universities." 1996-1997 evaluators also indicated, that "some papers were "clearly and articulately written and indicated that the writer had potential for graduate level scholarly writing." Evaluators over the past two years have made statments about other aspects of the papers read. In 1995-1996 evaluators thought that papers reflected an understanding of the relation of art to its social and cultural context and that such an understanding comes about only through the influence of teachers in the classroom.

    A 1996-97 comment was that paper topics were "interesting, indicating that the students' curiosit[ies] and interests are being encouraged." Visual analysis seemed strong in the 1995-96 papers while difficulty in supporting an academic argument with evidence was a weakness. Suggestions for improvement in 1996-97 include support for "writing about art" courses, especially ones that emphasize critical thinking skills and focus on art historical issues. 1995-96 evaluators have also noted that "we were impressed with the care generally taken by faculty in grading these papers." Some evaluators questioned the assessment process itself as "undermin[ing] the respect and authority of faculty and the confidence both administrators and students have in them."


    Exit surveys

    In addition to the external evaluation of student work in the studio art and art history areas, beginning in 1992-1993, a survey has solicited direct feedback about students' educational experiences.

    Studio art: On a series of ten questions assessing knowledge and skill levels based on studio arts goals, with 1=worst and 5=best, and 3=good, averaged scores for the ten questions ranged from 2.48 - 4.00 in 1996-97. Students felt that their ability to show originality in their work was very good (4.00), while in 1995-1996 technical proficiency received the highest score (4.15). In 1996-97 they saw their knowledge of art history and contemporary art as their weakest areas, which is consistent with 1995-1996 assessment results. 1996-97 scores for "knowledge of art history and contemporary art" and "knowledge of how to exhibit art" fell below those of last year; in 1996-97 the averages were 2.71 and 2.48, respectively, while in 1995-96 these questions yielded averages in the good range (3.39 and 3.14, respectively). Over the years, students feel that their strongest abilities are their originality, their ability to express their ideas clearly and the development of a personal style. Strengths of the curriculum include variety, ability to work independently, although with supervision, a supportive atmosphere, and the diversity of the instructors. Weaknesses include varied teaching quality (much better in advanced courses) and advising, which students say has gotten better but can be better still.

    Art history: There is no reliable mechanism in place at this time to obtain a sufficient number of survey forms of art history students' educational experiences. Because of a low return for effort expended the previous year, survey forms were not mailed to seniors for 1996-1997. However, art history faculty have initiated major changes in the art history curriculum that will make it easier to solicit student feedback as well as a more systematic ways to obtain student papers for review. It is planned that a required senior-year capstone course in art history research will be in place by fall 1998, from which research papers will be made available and in which student survey forms will be collected for the yearly assessment process.


    Program changes

    For four years FINE 3007 (Writing in the Visual Arts) has been available to junior senior students, fulfilling the upper-division writing core requirement. Evaluators of studio and art history student work indicate that expressing ideas in written form remains a problem in need of review by the art department.

    In 1997 the art history faculty initiated a new curriculum which will institute a change in sequence and structure of the courses needed to complete a major. Two significant changes will be an addition of a junior level course FINE 3000 (Critical Thinking in Art History) and a required senior capstone art history course, FINE 4919 (Senior Seminar in Art History). A substantial research paper will be required of all students enrolled in the capstone course. This will improve art history students' skills in writing about and analyzing art historical information and provide a way to assemble writing samples for assessment purposes. It is planned that the new art history curriculum will be in place by Fall semester 1998.

    Studio art faculty will engage in program review during the 1997-1998 academic year examining the structure, course content and philosophy of the studio program.


    Return to main Fine Arts summary


    Last revision 11/04/02

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